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October 4, 2003

John Burkett

Bill Mueller


Q. Bill, how many other guys have had this haircut now?

BILL MUELLER: I don't know. I think we're going to see. It's an ongoing process.

Q. You both have played for a lot of managers. Talk a little bit about Grady Little and what you like about his managerial style and what you noticed about it. Bill first.

BILL MUELLER: John, you being the veteran, I'll let you lead and then I'll follow.

JOHN BURKETT: For me, I've had four or five managers in my career, and I think Grady best compares to Bobby Cox. I think he took a lot from him and passed on his knowledge coming to the Boston Red Sox. He is a very laid back guy at times, and other times you can see him antsy over there at the edge of the dugout, and he gets excited about the games too. I think every person in here loves playing for him. I think that was the experience over in Atlanta also, the players have an extra passion to win for their manager. That's definitely the case here.

BILL MUELLER: Actually, I'm right along the same lines as Burky. Every guy wants to play for Grady. And I think when you get down to this time of the year, obviously in September with the playoff drive, I think that you have to take that into account if you're agreeing with his moods and how he's conducted the team up to that point. And you can see the guys that want to rally around a manager, and you can see teams that fall apart at the end. I definitely am a firm believer that guys like and enjoy that Grady is here. And for the other managers I played for, everyone wants to rally around those men and play hard for them.

Q. Would you talk a little bit, John, about the season...where you came from earlier in the season and now you're on the threshold of pitching in a postseason?

JOHN BURKETT: My thought process every season when I come to Spring Training is to pitch well enough to get an opportunity to pitch big games at the end of the season. Hopefully those games become World Series games. This year is no exception. This year I came to Spring Training ready to go, unfortunately I struggled out of the gate. There was a lot of talk about me being released and things like that earlier in the season. I just kept my mind about me and kept working and trying to get to the point where I wanted to get, and throwing good ballgames and keep us in the game. And I've been able to do that. We've been able to put up some wins in games that I pitched. 7th, 8th, 9th innings we scored a lot of runs. And here we are with an opportunity to pitch in a playoff game, and I'm looking forward to it. I think we'll win tonight, and I look forward to that pitch opportunity tomorrow.

Q. Getting back to what you talked about Grady, are the guys in the dugout surprised that he's coming back next year?

BILL MUELLER: I think a lot of us know that this game is a business, and those decisions are management decisions. And it's out of our control, and obviously it's an issue between him and the management. So whenever they decide to do things, I'm sure that it will be a good decision and best for the organization. What we have to say or what we feel or what we think is secondary to what, obviously, they're going to do.

Q. In addition to the scouting reports, when you're watching these past two games against Oakland, are you taking mental notes?

JOHN BURKETT: I think you have to observe the games. In a playoff situation, some guys react differently than others. Sometimes a guy can be more aggressive than he is in the regular season, and maybe you can take advantage of that. I definitely observe the games and watch real closely and try to pick those guys out, as well as maybe the guys that stay the same or even more patient at times in playoff games. And also I'll go by my past history. Past history has more to do with your game plan than anything else. For me, to watch Derek Lowe pitch tonight, I have to observe his game and how he pitches to them. But I can't pitch like Derek Lowe. You pick and choose the things that you think are going to help you and then go about doing your homework and preparing for your game. The most important thing is your past history in the way you approach each hitter. I look at their weaknesses and strengths and match them up.

Q. Your offensive figures are so much higher here at Fenway. What is your biggest factor that contributes to that?

BILL MUELLER: I haven't broken it down. I haven't seen the hitting chart of where the percentage of my hits have gone. Again, where the percentage of the balls are going, where the hits are falling, who are the pitchers that we face. There are a lot of factors that you can throw into it. It's just not thrown into one lump sum, I think, the pitching and who's pitching, the match-ups, the left, the right. It's nice to always hit at home, I know that, because you play 82 games there and you want to have success at home. I'm not a big analyzer and I don't break things down too much while I'm in season, especially about myself. I'm just very happy that as a team we do play well at home, because obviously, as you've seen throughout the entire year it's been a big help.

Q. Talk about looking back how important that first game is.

JOHN BURKETT: I think obviously in a five-game series especially, that first game is important, very important. It was an emotional game which I didn't play in. I was close to getting into it. A very emotional game where both teams used a lot of their pitching. And we were unfortunate to come out behind in that game and lose. Every game is important in these series, and Game 1 is definitely important. But it's over. I think we're able to do that. Our team has been able to do that all season long. We forget about yesterday and we think about today. Right now we have Fenway Park where we played, you know, 750 baseball or something like that, some crazy number, probably 660. And I think our team has a lot of confidence. I've been swept in the playoffs three times in my career. Our team, and this team, I think has the best attitude of all the teams. I felt on the other teams I was on, I felt like our team was kind of -- not giving up, maybe losing focus. This team, I feel these guys feel they can come back and do this, and I'm part of that too. I'm hoping to get that opportunity tomorrow. If we win tonight and pitch a good game tomorrow and get us to Game 5, I really like our chances.

Q. Bill, following up on that last question, talk about how much having the last at-bats here has to do with possibly a larger offense at home and winning at home.

BILL MUELLER: I think you're saying a home-field advantage is more important than on the road. If the game is tied or down a run with the fans on your side, it's a big difference. I think any guy you ask, if you want to play on the road or at home, they would say at home, for sure. You get to sleep in your own bed and you get your last at-bat there in front of 40,000 screaming fans. That's what you want. It puts a lot of pressure on the opposing team. I like our chances always when you play at home. This is no different.

Q. You mentioned earlier about hearing some whispers early in the season about possibly being released. Is that the first time in your career you've come to those crossroads?

JOHN BURKETT: I think I came to that point in my Marlin career. I had Spring Training in 2000 with Tampa and did get released. Never during the season. This is the first time. I never heard it from the organization. Theo never said anything, and I never asked him. He was honest with me and told me up front if something was going to happen, he was going to let me know. I was able to focus more on the job at hand. I always felt I would be able to turn it around. I've struggled before and I've come out of it before. There is no reason why I couldn't do it again, especially with this team behind you, guys putting runs on the board. And we've played all season long, that was a big help also.

End of FastScripts...

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